Foundations 2022: A week of Constructing Volumes

February 2, 2022 | 2 Comments

We’ve just wrapped up a fun week Constructing Volumes as part of the Group Run-through from Foundations. Whilst the ability to see volumes (objects in 3D form as they sit in space) is not as essential as seeing edges and shapes, it’s still a very important skill to develop, especially for spontaneous urban sketching. Constructing volumes is a great way to make a complex object easier to sketch. I’ve explained more about this technique here and here. In fact the whole tag Constructing Volumes has lots of useful articles to explore this subject further.

After doing a fun shape-based sketch of the entrance to St Albans last week, it was only natural to return to it and do a volumes version. This photo shows the pencil outlines of the volumes underneath my ink lines.

I then added colour and did a fun open-ended continuous line drawing.

Last week I did another volume based sketch (left) of the same church. This is a funny corner of the building and hard to make a convincing composition out of it. I added coloured pencils and a white gel pen over the watercolour in this sketch.

I often combine the three ways of seeing (Feeling Edges, Abstracting Shapes and Constructing Volumes) in the one sketch. Here (on the left) I started with volumes drawn in cobalt green watercolour pencil, then painted the shadow shapes and finally added ink to a few edges. I didn’t do any site measuring for this sketch, so later in the day…

I did another version (on the right) following the same steps with a little measuring. On the left you can see a picnic table sketch which I did as part of the outdoor exercise for this week – drawing a chair.

I also sat down for my morning coffee at Cafe Feoh (first time in ages – but I’m sure it hasn’t been two years!). I did a few quick rough sketches of the chairs and used this to discuss (in last night’s livestream) the dangers of the object brain taking over when drawing volumes.

I then went out at the hottest part of the day (It was 33C yesterday) and did some more sketches of the picnic tables at Lane Cove National Park (the Carters Creek area). These picnic tables turned out to be more complex than I originally thought so I did two elevational sketches first to understand how they were put together.

A few days ago I did these quick sketches of the playground area in a local park. This particular structure was a hard subject for a continuous line drawing – but surprisingly worked okay using shapes.

And just for the record, this fun playground at the wonderful Ollie Webb Reserve in Merrylands was done in a Feeling Edges approach rather than using volumes. I was having a great chat with my sister-in-law at the time (and partly keeping an eye on my nieces and nephews) so I simply sketched this one edge at a time, progressively working from left to right without mapping out the overall shape or volumes.

Ah! I’ve really loved focusing on constructing volumes again! It’s definitely second nature for me due to my architectural background.

What about you? Do you like working this way?

Finally just to let you know:
As we are just about to wrap up Lesson 4 I’ll be closing access to this Group Run-through on Thursday 3 February 2022. The course will remain open for people to work through at their own pace, but you’ll no longer be able to work through the course with the group and receive all the special emails and prompts that are part of the Group Run-through.

Working through the lessons as a cohort and then attending weekly livestreams is the best way to work through an online course! Group Run-throughs always create lots of energy and the interaction of fellow classmates helps you stay on track for the duration of this comprehensive course. Note: It will be at least 12 months before I’m able to do another Group Run-through for Foundations.

Although there are four weeks worth of lessons to catch up, there are still 8 weeks of livestreams that you’ll be able to join live. Find out more about Foundations here.



  • Peggy Bowman says:

    Liz, between last night’s Livestream Constructing Volumes and the explanations and examples in this blog post, I’m finally understanding Volumes/3D Forms and how it relates to Edges and Shapes. Many thanks for your patience. You’re a fabulous teacher!!

    • Liz Steel says:

      Yay! SO glad to hear Peggy. I love having you in the Group Run-throughs and seeing you beautiful work each week!

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